Wednesday June 20th, 2018 11:26AM
6:01AM ( 5 hours ago ) Weather Alert

Senate GOP shies from fight over Medicare

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Democrats are warning that Speaker Paul Ryan and President-elect Donald Trump are gunning for Medicare — and they are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of an epic political battle over the government's flagship health program that covers 57 million Americans.

It turns out that Republicans, especially in the Senate, are not spoiling for a fight.

"We are not inclined to lead with our chin," said No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas. "And right now, we've got a lot on our plate."

Ryan, R-Wis., is the most powerful advocate in Washington for a premium-support approach that would, over time, remake Medicare into a voucher-like program that could force some seniors entering the program to buy health insurance on the open market instead of getting coverage through the traditional open-ended program. Critics say such coverage would take away a Medicare guarantee and give seniors subsidies whose value won't keep up with inflation.

Medicare covers 48 million seniors and nine million disabled people.

Ryan, just days after the election, said any legislation to replace President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act law would necessarily include cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

"Obamacare rewrote Medicare, rewrote Medicaid, so if you're going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well," Ryan told Fox News. "Those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare."

Ryan's comments set off alarm bells, as did recent remarks by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. — made before becoming Trump's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services — suggesting that House Republicans are eyeing major Medicare cuts as early as the summer.

"Speaker Ryan has pushed to privatize Medicare for years and the President-elect has nominated a champion of that effort," said incoming Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York. "The people who are genuinely and rightly scared are millions of American seniors who don't believe privatization of Medicare will be in their interest."

Schumer on Friday announced a news conference next week with liberal groups to deliver more than 1 million signatures demanding that Republicans "keep their hands off" Medicare.

Over the last couple of weeks, however, it's become clear that even House Republicans aren't gunning for a big fight on Medicare this year.

"I envision 2017 as taking steps, small, in preparing for larger steps to save Medicare for the long term," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.

Reaction among Senate Republicans at the prospect of major Medicare cuts, meanwhile, was almost one of bemusement.

"When you take a look at the menu, that's probably one of the last courses," said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Medicare is exceptionally popular, but faces major fiscal problems from an incoming wave of baby boomers. While there is widespread agreement that changes are needed to shore up the program, Medicare has an outsized reputation as a "third rail" political issue — touch it and you die.

Medicare cuts were used by Democrats to help finance the Affordable Care Act and they are a big part of GOP promises to balance the budget. But House Republicans have never pushed Medicare privatization beyond assuming it in their annual — but mostly symbolic — balanced budget plan. Senate Republicans have never shown much enthusiasm for the idea and it's not even clear that the House could actually pass it.

"Paul Ryan, who I admire tremendously, he's a big thinker. He's a big idea guy. I'm actually trying to figure out, 'How do we get it passed?'" added Cornyn, the top GOP vote counter. "The first test would be, 'Can it pass the House?'"

Ryan's post-election comments were especially striking because Trump made clear in the campaign that he wasn't interested in cutting Medicare. And Ryan said on Thursday that he hasn't discussed Medicare with Trump himself.

"As far as what our plans are with reforming and preserving (Medicare), that's just something we haven't discussed yet with the administration and we'll do it as the year goes on," Ryan told reporters.

"I think it would depend entirely on how committed the administration was to pushing some sort of reforms," added Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. "I do think there are reforms that you could get north of 50 (votes) on here. But I don't know if what's being talked about (vouchers) is among those."

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP Business, AP Health - Senior Health, AP Business - Personal Finance
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Revelers say goodbye to a year of conflicts, deadly violence
People around the world are bidding a weary adieu to a year filled with political surprises, prolonged conflicts, deadly attacks at gatherings and celebrity deaths
11:58PM ( 9 months ago )
Get ready for a blockbuster sequel: Alabama vs. Clemson
Get ready for a blockbuster sequel: Alabama vs. Clemson, The Rematch
11:31PM ( 9 months ago )
With Ohio State shutout, Clemson earns another shot at 'Bama
Clemson's redemption: By shutting out Ohio State, the Tigers earn another shot at 'Bama
11:25PM ( 9 months ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump says he doesn't trust computers as he rings in 2017
President-elect Donald Trump says that "no computer is safe" when it comes to keeping information private
10:46PM ( 9 months ago )
New UN chief wants consensus but faces antagonistic Trump
Antonio Guterres took the reins of the United Nations on New Year's Day, promising to be a "bridge-builder" but facing an antagonistic incoming U.S. administration led by Donald Trump who thinks the world body's 193 member states do nothing except talk
9:39PM ( 9 months ago )
Trump ditches media for golf game, offers New Year's wishes
President-elect Donald Trump has ditched his press pool once again, traveling to play golf at one of his clubs without a pool of journalists on hand to ensure the public has knowledge of his whereabouts
3:58PM ( 9 months ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Some power restored to North Carolina's gov.-elect _ for now
A North Carolina judge granted a small victory to the state's incoming Democratic governor on Friday, temporarily restoring some of his control over elections that Republican lawmakers stripped him of in a legislative power play just weeks ago
4:17PM ( 9 months ago )
North Carolina gov.-elect sues over law stripping his powers
North Carolina's incoming Democratic governor has sued over a new law passed by Republican lawmakers to limit his powers before he even takes office
1:43PM ( 9 months ago )
10 Things to Know for Today
Among 10 Things to Know: Obama unleashes sanctions on Russia for election hacking; cease-fire in Syria appears to be holding; Serena Williams announces engagement to co-founder of Reddit.
7:40AM ( 9 months ago )
AP Online Congress News
Rural New Mexico exports mentoring model for physicians
A mentoring program for physicians in rural areas is being tapped by the federal government to expand access to specialized care
1:41PM ( 9 months ago )
Obama's last month: 'Obamacare' defense, Chicago speech
President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers will meet next week to forge a common strategy to stop Republicans from destroying his signature health care law
2:43PM ( 9 months ago )
Obama's last month: 'Obamacare' huddle, Chicago speech
President Barack Obama will strategize next week with Democratic lawmakers about how to prevent Republicans from destroying his Affordable Care Act
1:36PM ( 9 months ago )
AP Health
US states, leery of Russia malware, re-examine cybersecurity
Several U.S. states are asking cybersecurity experts to re-examine state and utility networks after a malware code U.S. officials say is linked to Russian hackers was found on a Vermont utility's laptop
8:57PM ( 9 months ago )
States re-examine cybersecurity after Russia accused of hack
Several U.S. states are asking cybersecurity experts to re-examine state and utility networks after a malware code U.S. officials say is linked to Russian hackers was found on a Vermont utility's laptop
6:37PM ( 9 months ago )
Long gas lines, price hike mar holiday season in Mexico
The holidays have been a little less merry for car owners in Mexico as gasoline shortages have grumbling customers dealing with hours-long lines
6:29PM ( 9 months ago )
AP Business
Oklahoma to require restroom signs in anti-abortion effort
Oklahoma will force hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and public schools to post signs inside public restrooms directing pregnant women where to receive services as part of an effort to reduce the number of abortions
3:57PM ( 10 months ago )
Oklahoma may require restroom signs in anti-abortion effort
Oklahoma will force hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and public schools to post signs inside public restrooms directing pregnant women where to receive services as part of an effort to reduce the number of abortions
11:17AM ( 10 months ago )
Supreme Court leaves $1B NFL concussion settlement in place
The Supreme Court has rejected challenges to the estimated $1 billion plan by the NFL to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players
8:42PM ( 10 months ago )
AP Health - Senior Health
Nvidia leads S&P's winners in 2016; drug companies slump
Chipmaker Nvidia more than tripled in value in 2016, far more than any other company in the S&P 500
4:44PM ( 9 months ago )
How to spend more mindfully in the new year
Meditation and mindfulness can help with anxiety, depression and more
10:48AM ( 9 months ago )
Long-term US mortgage rates rise, staying near 2014 highs
Long-term US mortgage rates ticked up again this week, staying at their highest levels since early 2014
10:00AM ( 9 months ago )
AP Business - Personal Finance
Venezuelan socialists claim victory as opposition cries foul
Official results show pro-government candidates sweeping to an unforeseen victory in Venezuelan gubernatorial races, though the opposition says the count is fraudulent, noting it contradicts polling
8:32AM ( 12 minutes ago )
1 missing, after oil rig explodes on Louisiana lake
An oil rig explosion on a lake north of New Orleans injured seven people and left authorities searching for another who was missing
8:29AM ( 15 minutes ago )
Kenya police killed 67 opposition supporters: Rights groups
Kenya police killed 67 opposition supporters after August election, rights groups say
8:24AM ( 20 minutes ago )
The Latest: Merkel congratulates Kurz on Austria win
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she isn't "dramatically concerned" about differences on refugee policy after conservative leader Sebastian Kurz won neighboring Austria's election
8:24AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Portugal wildfires kill at least 27; 4 dead in Spain
Officials say that wildfires in Portugal have killed at least 27 people, injured dozens more and left an unconfirmed number of missing in the country's second such tragedy in four months
8:16AM ( 28 minutes ago )